Police agencies usually have their own template for a search warrant affidavit and specific procedures on how to complete it.
Note: It is important that you consult with your agency or your prosecutor’s office to determine the procedures used for Search Warrant Affidavits.
Law enforcement officers are sometimes called upon to request a search warrant. According to the Legal Information Institute at the Cornell University Law School: “To obtain a [search] warrant, law enforcement officers must show that there is probable cause to believe a search is justified. Officers must support this showing with sworn statements (affidavits), and must describe in particularity the place they will search and the items they will seize. In Groh v. Ramirez, 540 U.S. 551 (2004), the Court held that a warrant that lacks accurate information as to what will be searched is improper, and that a search which happens pursuant to that warrant is unlawful and violates the Fourth Amendment.” (1)
Having a search warrant allows the agency to collect and preserve evidence at a specific location but it does not necessarily describe how that evidence will be captured. When requesting a search warrant, some agencies do not specify the methods or equipment they intend to use, perhaps with the goal to not be limited to only using specific tools addressed in the warranty. If your agency wishes to include the method of evidence capture, you may want to include a large variety of possible documentation and measurement tools, so the investigators are not limited to only using specific methods.
However, search warrants often specify the method of recovery if a search warrant is being requested specifically to scan it. For example, in a case where a previous search warrant was served, officers gained access to the site and left, and now they want to return and scan it. The new warrant affidavit would specifically request entry to scan the scene.
Whenever laser scanning is mentioned as an evidence capture method in the affidavit, it is recommended to include case citations from your state where scanner data has been previously accepted in court. If the judge is not familiar with laser scanning, the citations would confirm that scanning is an appropriate and proven method of evidence capture.
Sample Search Warrant Affidavit
You can download an example template through the link below. In this example, documentation methods could be added to the section titled “Description of Property Sought” by appending wording like the following:
“Additionally, the person, place or thing described above, as well as the Property mentioned herein might be documented by a variety of methods. These could include, but aren’t limited to; videography, photography, manual measurements and three-dimensional measurements, including using a FARO laser scanner.”
Another approach is to describe the documentation methods in the Narrative section, such as:
“In order to forensically process the location described above, officers of the ____________(Name of Agency) may use a variety of techniques to document this location. These could include, but are not limited to, photography, videography, manual measurements and three-dimensional measurements, such as using a FARO laser scanner.”
Follow your agency’s procedures regarding exactly how much detail to add to this section.
1) Legal Information Institute, https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/search_warrant
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